Sunday, January 21, 2007

roundabout at 42nd and Speedway

A rarity within the road system of Austin, the roundabout located at 42nd street and Speedway takes the place of a conventional 4-way intersection with stop signs. This roundabout is the object of my narrative, with the actors being a motorist in a midsized sedan, a female jogger and a little girl.

Simultaneously, the motorist, jogger and little girl all approach the roundabout, with its 4 yield signs and circular road wrapped around the central circle planted with shrubs and a single tree. Seemingly confused by the oddity of the roundabout, the motorist comes to a complete and prolonged stop, checking a endless number of directions due to the lack of definite sides within the circle. Similarly, the jogger reaches the roundabout moments after the car, at the same yield sign and is forced to stop her rhythm and wait on the decision of the motorist. The motorist, already confounded by the unknown procedure of the road, is given yet another consideration in his decision making as the little girl rushes out to play in the center around the tree. So it stands, that in a matter of moments, a quiet roundabout comes to a standstill as the laws of the road, the common sense of a jogger and the innocent curiosity and vitality of a young girl all combine to present a situation totally out of the ordinary.

The motorist, now an intricate part of this ballet, is no doubt leaving church and driving down this quiet road on his way towards 45th street or some other larger thoroughfare that will possibly lead to yet another larger road or series of roads until he arrives at his destination. The jogger is simply taking in the afternoon air and jogging in a circuit nearby to the house she rents as a student. As for the little girl, she lives in the only house that addresses the circular roundabout in a convex fashion, and like the jogger, is taking in the beautiful day with all the zeal of an excited child.

How interesting it is that a simple mechanism such as a roundabout, meant only to regulate car traffic at an intersection can come to serve not only its intended purpose, but also facilitate the exercise and adventure of people as well. It takes the human element of choice/consequence to transform the object into an interaction, into a theatre of human drama.

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